BEA is great for a lot of things--finding out what new books are coming soon, reconnecting with old colleagues and friends, and maybe even snagging a bound galley or two. But what's also very cool is getting to see and find out more about the people and companies who work in different aspects of publishing, particularly the emerging technology fields. For a content creation person such as myself, it's fascinating to learn more about content delivery and the mechanics that go into it.
More and more publishers are offering ebooks and other forms of digital content directly to consumers, but most aren't equipped with the back-end delivery systems required. Cue the tech firms! At BEA I was lucky enough to meet up with Sameer Shariff, founder and CEO of Impelsys, a leader in electronic content delivery for the publishing industry worldwide. Impelsys was founded in 2001, and in 2008 they launched iPublishCentral, an e-publishing system for publishers through which digital warehousing, ebookstore creation, and content monetization can all flow. Right now they have between 75 and 100 publishers on the system, including HarperCollins, Oxford University Press, MIT, McGraw Hill, Sesame Street, and Elsevier.
The system is scalable, offers multiple platforms, individual publisher applications, and mobile downloads. It has to be versatile-no one publisher is the same as the next. Some publishers have to market to consumers while others to institutions such as libraries or corporations. Some require an ebookstore where content is sold piece by piece, while others need to offer subscription models.
Sameer explained that there are six key areas that Impelsys concentrates on. The first is the user interface (UI). This includes features such as flipping, bookmarking, and even the ability to add notes to content. The second is social interactivity. This doesn't just refer Facebook or Twitter but sharing between members of professional organizations and research groups. Mobile applications and usage come next. Then come analytics and metrics, tools that are becoming more and more important in digital publishing. How did people find your content? Are they sharing? Are they buying? All these numbers help focus marketing to the target reader. Fifth is an open system platform to make for easier integration with each publisher's proprietary software.
Finally, there are the content objects themselves. How do you break them up in different ways? Tracking and monetizing content is the core business of any ebook retailer. Some people want to download an entire ebook. Others might just want one chapter. Do you want to offer excerpts or the whole book? What about a whole series of ebooks? And how do you structure your pricing to fit your content?
By creating intricate systems that are easy to use, Impelsys helps content get from publishers to end users. After all, if an ebook falls in a forest but no one can download it, did it make a sound?